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Remains identified from Jamestown settlement

Remains identified from Jamestown settlement

BBC News

Jamestown was the first successful British colony that gave rise to modern day America.The bodies were exhumed in November 2013 in the church where Pocahontas married Captain John Rolfe in 1614. It took two years of detective work and the latest scientific techniques to identify the badly-preserved bones. It’s now known the remains belong to important figures who lived in Jamestown between 1607 and 1610, when the colony almost collapsed. …

The fourth man, Reverend Robert Hunt, was the first Anglican minister in America and arrived with the founding expedition in 1607. Hunt nearly missed his chance to leave the shores of England. His acute seasickness was considered an ill omen by his companions who wanted to put him off the ship. Part of his mission was to Anglicise Native Americans by converting them to Christianity, but he died a year later aged about 39.

From Smithsonian Science

Eventually, the team identified the men as:

  • Rev. Robert Hunt, the chaplain at Jamestown and the colony’s Anglican minister, who died at age 39 in 1608
  • Capt. Gabriel Archer, who died at age 34 in 1609 or 1610 during the “starving time”
  • Sir Ferdinando Wainman, who came to Jamestown with his first cousin, the governor of Virginia, and died at about age 34 in 1610
  • Capt. William West, who died in 1610 during a skirmish with the Powhatan at age 24

From NPR – questions have arisen around a small silver box that seems to be of Roman Catholic origin:

the object itself is clearly a reliquary — a container for holy relics in the Roman Catholic Church. And that is puzzling. The colonists were Anglicans — members of the Church of England. Many Anglicans at the time considered Roman Catholics their spiritual enemies.

The mystery continues about what happened and what was going on.


Image from Smithsonian Science


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Kurt Hill

I agree with you, Rod. It is my understanding, too, that rescusants were quite numerous in the north of England. So it makes sense that High Church Anglicanism would also be popular there.

Some of the books which deal with High Church customs include Alison Findlay, Illegitimate Power: Bastards in Renaissance Drama, which has some discussion on religion in the north of England. Graham Parry, Glory, Laud and Honour: The Arts of the Anglican Counter-Reformation has information on ceremonial practices before the Puritans took power. Nigel Yates, Buildings, Faith and Worship: The Liturgical Arrangement of Anglican Churches 1600-1900 is also interesting in this regard. Julie Spraggon, Puritan Iconoclasm During the English Civil War documents the Puritan campaign against High Church practices.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Rod Gillis

Kurt, thanks for this. Looks like a pretty interesting and engaging line up. The Nigel Yates’ work looks especially interesting from an art and architecture perspective. Terrific, cheers, -Rod

Kurt Hill

Research in recent decades has revealed that many High Church customs survived in some places in the Church of England much longer thansome imagine. This was particularly true in the north of England. Jamestown and the other Virginia settlements were founded during the Catholic Revival in Anglicanism. The Puritans of the period were always complaining about High Church Anglicans celebrating saints’ days, using holy water, incense, prayers for the dead, using crucifixes and rosary beads in their services, etc. It’s very likely that this reliquary is an Anglican artifact from the period.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Rod Gillis

“Research in recent decades has revealed that many High Church customs survived in some places in the Church of England much longer than some imagine. This was particularly true in the north of England.” Interesting, Kurt. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the R.C. population was significant in the north during the Elizabethan period.What research are you referencing? I’d be interested to know more.

Rod Gillis

Fascinating scientific, archeological, and historical perspectives. The BBC article and the Smithsonian on line articles referenced here are very good. The “reliquary” is intriguing. Recusant perhaps?

Paul Woodrum

Which means, probably misinterpreted, that Anglicans imported to America, over four-hundred years, have gone from 100% of the non-native population to less than 2%? Good work, guys!

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